Sometimes the best way to find out how to beat your opponent is to look into how they intend to beat you. There are obviously things the Chiefs will want to do against the Falcons, or force the Falcons to do that plays into their hands.
We have here an article from Arrowhead Addict, enumerating the 5 things that need to happen if the Chiefs are to beat the Falcons. It is very interesting to read the things written from a Kansas City Chiefs perspective.
First, Mr. Allen writes that the Chiefs must effectively run the ball. Every team needs balance, and the Chiefs are no different. Allowing Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis to run roughshod over the Falcons is what they will try to do, allowing Matt Cassel to take advantage of his receiving play-makers. There is a good shot of the Falcons stopping the run. They just need to do a good enough job to keep the Chiefs into 3rd&long situations, situations where Asante Samuel can make plays on passes. We need to keep them one dimensional.
Other points are equally valid. Targeting their large receivers (especially the Tight Ends) will take advantage of matchups against the Falcons’ linebackers/safeties. Throwing the ball to receivers out of the backfield is an important tool. Also, the Chiefs need Eric Berry to play like his 2010 self, remain healthy, and play smart. According to Mr. Allen, Berry looks healthy, he has just looked very mentally rough, looking rusty in coverage. If he is healthy and mentally locked in, he transforms their secondary.
Every writer comes up with keys for their team to win. All of the points that Allen makes are valid. Save for one.
Mr. Allen points out that if Matt Ryan is given the opportunity, ‘he will smoke the Chiefs’ and that ‘he is just too good of a QB’. But he goes on to say that the only way to stop this Falcons offense is to allow us to run the ball. He makes the point that the Chiefs handed the Packers their only regular season loss in 2011 by locking down the pass, and allowing them to run the ball. Preventing the big play to the receivers allows the Chiefs fast defensive play-makers to play the run, and play it effectively.
This is a strategy that I simply don’t think will work. I know that the Falcons intend fully to become a passing-oriented team, and throw the ball more than they have in past seasons. But given their personnel, I don’t think there is any reason the Falcons can’t run the ball if the Chiefs play to defend the pass. The Falcons run the ball a lot better than the Packers have in recent years, even against defenses stacked to defend the run.
When the Falcons spread defenses out a little bit with three receiver, one back sets, they will still have a good run-blocking offensive line, Tony Gonzalez blocking, and Michael Turner likely pounding the rock. If they can play the pass AND the run, hats off to them.
The bigger reason I don’t think the Chiefs conceding gains in the run game to defend the pass won’t work is due to play-action. I don’t care how well coached a defense is to stay with their pass responsibilities- if they are constantly gashed by the run, they will begin to move up, to cheat to play the run. If that happens, the Falcons are expert at using the play-action, and will beat the Chiefs defense with big plays.
This is all still theory and ideas by writers talking about a game that will take place nearly a week from now. In practice things could be very different. I can assure you one thing: the Falcons will do their best to impose their will on the Chiefs. If Eric Berry isn’t playing very well mentally, imposing that will will be all the easier.